Overdue honor

Stars and Stripes Flight to help recognize longtime firefighter’s Vietnam-era service

VIETNAM-ERA VETERAN Harry Michaels stood outside the Town of Fredonia recycling center, which he operates for the town. The 50-year Waubeka Fire Department veteran will be on the next Honor Flight on Saturday, May 11, to Washington, D.C. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

Waubeka resident Harry Michaels Jr. served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968 during the Vietnam era.

He never went to Vietnam. Instead, his job was to honor those who did and paid the ultimate price.

“When I was at Fort Hood (in Texas), when anybody came back in a coffin, they were put in a hangar until someone took the body to wherever it had to go,” he said.

“It was my job to stand guard until somebody came so they wouldn’t be alone, I guess.

“Sometimes someone would come and take the body that afternoon. Sometimes it might take a day or it might take two days. 

“There are a lot of guys, a lot of my buddies, who came home in a box. It was a sad feeling.”

It will be Michaels’ turn to be honored on Saturday, May 11, when he embarks on a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., a free one-day trip for veterans to visit their memorials.

His son Kevin, also a veteran, will accompany him as his “guardian.”

Michaels was honored in another way recently when the Fredonia Town Board recognized his 50 years of service to the Waubeka Fire Department.

Upon being honored, Michaels pointed out to supervisors, “and 50 years with the Legion,” meaning the Warren Kane American Legion Post 410 in Fredonia.

At his age, Michaels no longer fights fires, but he remains an active member by helping around the station and on fire calls by directing traffic or doing other tasks.

Not many residents of the Town of Fredonia don’t know Michaels. If they don’t know him, they’ll surely recognize him.

For one thing, he was born in Waubeka and has lived there every one of his 75 years except for the time he served in the Army.

When he was young, his family lived above a tavern in downtown Waubeka. Later they moved to a house on First Street.

Michaels graduated from Port Washington High School and after the military worked at the Gilson foundry.

Today, he lives on Second Street with his wife Theresa, who he married in 1973. It’s the same house where they raised their four children. The couple and Michaels’ six grandchildren all live in the area. 

Another way people know Michaels is that he runs the Town of Fredonia recycling center, one of the busiest places in the town.

“Harry is one of the most honest guys we got,” former Town Chairman Rich Mueller said.

“We don’t have to worry about any cash out there. He’s out there a lot of the time during the week that he doesn’t put in for. 

“Harry is as good-hearted a guy as you could find.”

Michaels has never been to Washington, D.C.

Asked what he is looking forward to most about his Honor Flight, he said, “Everything. I hear it’s beautiful.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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